Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Your Elevator Speech

An Inkling
It’s called the “Elevator Speech” – a pitch you can make in the 30 seconds of an elevator ride.  Salespeople hone them to perfection, knowing that they will often have only an elevator ride’s worth of opportunity to gain a hearing.
Most of us don’t think of ourselves as selling anything.  But in a culture where biblical values are increasingly suspect, it’s well not only to know what you believe and why, but to give some attention to how best to communicate your beliefs.
This came to mind as I saw Chris Broussard, an ESPN analyst, respond to Jason Collins’ announcement that he is gay.  Here’s the clip:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCOXBgBjDgY
While most of the talking heads were falling all over themselves to praise Jason’s bravery and to posture themselves as open-minded celebrants of his sexuality, Chris responded with his own views on sin, grace, God’s design for sexuality, and friendships that transcend different beliefs.  If he did that off the cuff, he really did well.  But with a little preparation, he could certainly improve that elevator speech at several points.
We could hope to do as well off the cuff – and especially on camera!  But we can do better if we follow the salespeople’s lead, and hone our elevator speech.  Here are some hints:

  • First, think through more broadly what you believe about the controversial topic, be it sexual ethics, the nature of marriage, abortion, or the place of Christian values in public conversations.  Then from your full rationale form your briefer declaration.  You really don’t have to make the whole case.  Stating a couple of key points winsomely will invite a more thorough conversation.
  • Second, invite your challenger to speak first, and listen for values you can affirm.  Real listening is crucial for making sure there is conversation, and not just dueling diatribes.
  • Third, make sure that the truth you affirm is preceded and followed by affirmations of grace, and your own need for that grace.
  • And fourth, as the salespeople advise, practice.  None of us do very well off the cuff on controversial topics.  Hone your elevator speech with your small group or your prayer partner.  Then if the moment comes, you’ll be ready.
There’s more to say.  But I’ve already gone beyond elevator length!
Bless Chris,

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Launching Pastors

An Inkling
All Pastors-in-the-making need a place to try their ministry wings.  St. Giles has provided such a place for many students from Union Seminary over the years, and in the process has loaded them up with lots of love and encouragement.
Last week Sarah Craven, our Student Minister in 2011-12, dropped by to tell us her big news:  she’s been called to serve a church in Missouri.  Listen to her in the video, and you can hear her excitement.  She’s ready to fly.  And you can hear her gratitude for the part we had in launching her.
As we shift to our new denomination, I'm not sure whether we’ll have any more Student Ministers from Union Seminary.  But I’m guessing the Lord will open some other doors for us.  For St. Giles is a marvelous congregation for stretching wings toward soaring pastoral ministry!
Pray for Sarah,

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Welcome to Evie

An Inkling
Yesterday Sarah and I got to greet little Evie, Clayton and Jessie’s daughter, born several hours before.  What a happy privilege to meet her, and to witness her parents getting to know this one God has entrusted to them.  Here’s my note to little Evie:
Dear Evie,
What a joy it was to meet you on the very day of your birth!  And what fun it was to see the delight in your parents’ eyes as they held you.
Here’s a glimpse of what else happened in the world on your birthday:
  • A terrorist strike in Boston killed three and injured scores.
  • A 7.3 magnitude earthquake struck southeast Iran.
  • The gruesome Gosnell abortion clinic trial continued in Philadelphia.
  • The Nats hammered the Marlins.
  • Time listed the 50 “Must Have iPad Apps”.

Over time you’ll learn that bad news often gets top billing in this world.  And that’s just the short list of the day’s grim headlines.  You’ll also see that trivialities are often hyped as significant – like the Nats and the 50 Apps.
But your parents and your church will be telling you some other news – far more significant and timely, though frequently overlooked: 
  • Evie, the One who made this world and the other 370,000 who share your birthday loves you very much.
  • In fact, he loves you so much, that he gave his Son’s life for you and this world, and that changes everything.
  • You will get to be part of what he is doing to rescue and redeem this world.  That will be the hardest and the very best part of your life.

If all we had to offer you were the headlines, we would greet you only with a sense of dread at what you must face.  But this other news, of the God who loves you and who gives you new life in Jesus, means that we can welcome you with a sure hope that you will know his kind of joy in living – even in a world like this!
So, welcome, little one!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

A Gift From the Children

An Inkling
Do any of you ever take yourselves and your problems too seriously?  I know I do.  Sometimes the Lord delivers me from my messiah complex by puncturing my pomposity.  He’s never at a lack for the means to do so.  And it can be pretty painful.
But sometimes his deliverance from self-importance comes gently.  And it seems that children are one of his favorite means for doing so. 
One bonus of working at St. Giles is that I get to see the preschool children here and there during the day.  Their knack for childlike simplicity and joy serves to remind us that God would give the same to us as his children.  Check out the attached video snippet from a few days ago when Melanie and Mhilet brought their class by the office to sing.
What a gift!  It’s part of what Jesus meant when he said “whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God as a little child shall never enter it.”
Thanks kids!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Unending Quest

An Inkling
How large is the universe?  And how small are the tiniest sub-atomic particles?  For every answer scientific researchers find, more questions arise.  The more they learn, the more they realize they have yet to discover.  And until they learned what they do know, they didn’t begin to know what they don’t know.
I’m a theology researcher.  Not in a professional sense.  Some folks theologize for a living.  As a pastor theology is only one of the balls I juggle.  But it’s a hugely important one, which I pursue both through Bible study and reading theology books.  So I’m a fairly serious theologian, and have been for over three decades now.
Yet it’s not as if those three decades have brought answers to all the questions.  Far from it.  The farther I’ve gone with these theological quests, the more I’ve realized that the same dynamic is at play in theology as in scientific research – until you grow some in what you do know, you don’t know what you don’t know.
It’s the mystery of God.  The more you get to know of who he is and what he’s about, the more you realize that there is much more to know, and much more beyond knowing. 
And it’s not just in reference to esoteric questions like how providence works or the nature of evil.  It’s also true for such “basic” matters as God’s love.  What a happy discovery – to learn that exploring God’s love leads to more love to explore!  So too for such “basics” as God’s grace, forgiveness, joy, and peace.  And get this:  through the Spirit Jesus himself enables the search – mystery upon mystery, and all good!
Happy exploring!